We are back on the bus and headed to the next destination…and let me tell you it is bloody hot today. Like definitely the hottest one so far, and I am loaded up with water, my hat and electrolyte powder just in case. We make a lunch stop; it’s a large restaurant that caters to tour buses and it’s a set menu featuring pastitsio. I love it – it’s basically a Greek version of lasagna.
There’s a tubular pasta layer, a thick meat sauce with tomatoes, cinnamon and clove, and topped with bechamel sauce and cheese. Yum!
After this hearty meal we arrive at Mycenae, an ancient archaeological site that was once a major centre of Greek civilization. There was some amazing architecture uncovered here, and the first stop is the Tomb of Agamemnon (also called the Treasury of Atreus).
It is the largest tomb at Mycenae, called a beehive tomb because it is domed. It’s located further away from the acropolis and is much more impressive than the other tombs in the area, leading experts to believe that the ruler who constructed the tomb had some special status. Inside it’s dark and it’s a great escape from the blazing sun.
Out of the tomb and across the road to explore the main acropolis and citadel. Of course, it involves an optional climb up to the top on the hottest day ever. Typical! Walking up to the ancient gates, we can see the Cyclopean walls of the fortress, called this because the blocks of stone used were massive and thought to be the handiwork of the one-eyed giants of myth. How could regular people lift these giant boulders?
This all leads to the famous Lion Gate; the lions depicted would have been a symbol of power or the goddess Hera.
It is the only surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture, from way back in prehistoric times. I decide I’m up for the challenge today and I will climb to the top of the hill. It’s not super high, but still challenging especially in the heat and luckily we get some cloud cover for this little hike.
The views from up here are pretty amazing, so I think it’s worth it. Inside this old fortress there are more tombs similar but smaller than Agamemnon’s, basic remains of houses and workshops.
Another short drive over to the next stop on the itinerary – an optional visit to the ancient theatre at Epidaurus. It is considered to be “the most perfect” ancient Greek theatre with regard to acoustics and appearance.
And yeah, it’s pretty stunning. It could hold up to 14,000 people and hosted all kinds of music, singing, plays and games. You can still catch performances of ancient plays and music events here today. I was kind of excited to check out the acoustics, but our guide informs us that singing is no longer allowed. Aw come on! But this makes sense, because can you imagine every tourist wanting to sing a song. Like a bad karaoke gig, haha. We have a look in the small museum next to the theatre and get some history lessons from the guide (I can’t remember her name!)
Then she takes us to the theatre and has us stand in a large circle clapping our hands as we move forward into the center.
A cool display of the acoustics. Some of the group climb to the top of the theatre; I don’t trust my knees or my level of heat exhaustion.
I slowly wander around and back to the bus. We have free time tonight in a town called Nafplio, which I completely fallen love with. It’s a quaint coastal town with Venetian influence, with tons of charm and cool vibes. It’s also a place for romantic getaways, which is apparent with all the smitten kittens strolling around here. It’s a popular weekend getaway from Athens so you’ll see a mix of international tourists and local Greeks.
Me, Philippe and Ana are feeling adventurous and we haven’t done quite enough today(haha) so we decide to take a taxi up to the Palamidi fortress.
It was built by the Venetians in the 1700’s and is located on the crest of a giant hill. We think we have a couple hours to explore but it turns out they’ve switched over to their winter hours and we have less than an hour. Yikes. So we gotta make this quick. First off, the views from up here are worth the trip.
We wander through the small gates and rooms but we miss a whole other section up here:
The whistle sounds, and that means we need to make our way out of the fortress. The staff is nice to call us a taxi, otherwise it’s a long walk back down to Nafplio. Once back in town, we have a wander though the streets.
We end up at O Vasilis taverna for dinner and I order a giant beer and fried calamari. I don’t mind it but I find it kind of mild and I don’t love the flavor.
Like maybe I should have ordered a side of tzatziki to dip it in. Ana has the shrimp in cheesy tomato sauce and I’m super jealous of her meal. I give this kitty some of my calamari….
The main fun in Nafplio on any given night happens in Constitution Square. It is alive with live music, street vendors, kids running around, people making out, etc.
We meet up with the rest of the group and I’d love to stay out but I’m tired after this long day of exploring. Me and Ana walk back to the hotel, past this guy…Theodoros Kolokotronis, a Greek revolutionary leader.
Tonight, we’re staying at Park Hotel; I forgot to take a pic of the room but it is pretty basic, nothing fancy. The hotel is a short walk from Constitution Square. If you’re heading to Athens, I think Nafplio is a great option for a two-day getaway. I would absolutely come back here!
Next morning, we are back on the road to Athens, with a photo stop at the Corinth Canal. This canal is artificial and connects the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea to the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It’s pretty narrow and the tidal currents between the gulfs can be too strong, and the rock it’s cut through is prone to landslides. No ships wanted to pass though it. Epic fail. It doesn’t really have a huge purpose, other than it being a tourist attraction. There is a bridge that spans across it, and this is where the tourists can stand and gawk at this wonder. Haha. You can see it from both sides of the bridge but that involves a dicey run across some steady traffic. We are lucky today; we get to see not ONE, but TWO small ships pass through.
Matt is excited because this is the first time he’s seen any boats in this canal in his many years of tour leading. The canal had been closed for about a year and a half due to landslide, and then reopened in 2022. It closed again later in the year and at the time I’m writing this, it’s set to open again in 2023. What a mess. Haha.
We drive back into Athens, and prepare for our guided tour of the Acropolis. If you want to read more, I’ve included this part in my blog about Athens. The tour ends today and I say goodbye to all my new friends and get ready to venture out solo to the islands……